Two species of giant clams, Tridacna maxima and T. squamosa, coexist in the Red Sea, but exhibit distinctly different depth distributions: T. maxima mostly occurs in shallow waters (reef flat and edge), while T. squamosa may occur down to the lower fore-reef slope. Giant clams have been described as mixotrophic, capable of both filter-feeding and photosynthesis due to algal symbionts (zooxanthellae), therefore, observed depth preferences were investigated in relation to possible differences in autotrophy vs. heterotrophy. This study was conducted from April to June 2004, at the reef near the Marine Science Station, Aqaba, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, and in May 2007, at a reef near Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. In situ measurements using a submersible pulse amplitude modulated fluorometer (Diving PAM), revealed no significant differences in effective PSII quantum yield (ΔF/Fm′) and relative electron transport rates (ETR) between the two species; but rapid light curves (ETR vs. light, photosynthetically active irradiance, PAR) showed significant differences in maximum photosynthetic rates (ETRmax), with 20% higher values in T. maxima. Chamber incubations displayed higher net and gross oxygen production by T. maxima (88.0 and 120.3 μmol O2 cm−2 mantle area day−1) than T. squamosa (56.7 and 84.8 μmol O2 cm−2 mantle area day−1); even under shading conditions (simulated depth of 20 m) T. maxima still achieved 93% of the surface gross O2 production, whereas T. squamosa reached only 44%. A correlation was found between ETR and net photosynthesis measured as oxygen production (T. maxima: R2 = 0.53; T. squamosa: R2 = 0.61). Calculated compensation depth (CD) (gross photosynthesis equals respiration) in T. maxima (16 m) matches the maximum depth of occurrence in this study (17 m). By contrast, the CD of T. squamosa (9 m) was much shallower than the maximum vertical range (42 m). Findings suggest T. maxima is a strict functional photoautotroph limited by light, whereas T. squamosa is a mixotroph whose photoautotrophic range is extended by heterotrophy.
High Performance Liquid Chromatography Photosynthetically Active Radiation Reef Flat Electron Transport Rate Photosynthetic Performance
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This study was funded by the German Ministry for Education and research (grant no. 03F0356A). Thanks are due to the scientific and technical staff of the MSS, in particular to Mohammed Rasheed, Yousef Ahmed and Abdullah Al-Momany (diving supervision) for support. Thanks to Matthias Birkicht and Stefani Bröhl for technical advice and logistics at the ZMT. Special thanks to Ralph Tollrian for supporting this study, especially the part in Dahab. Thanks to the MPI, notably Dirk deBeer and Raphaela Schoon for HPLC access and assistance.
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